Who are the Unpeople?
In this talk, Noam Chomsky starts with specifics — the Unpeople of Libya, the Unpeople of Africa — but the heart is the general, the concept itself. Who are the Unpeople of the earth?
Here’s a taste. Chomsky starts with the unilateral bombing of Libya “by their traditional imperial aggressors: France and Britain, joined by the United States” — in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 which “called for a no-fly zone, a cease-fire and measures to protect civilians.”
The “triumvirate” blew right past that with their bombing, and the African Union (A.U.) went to the U.N. to object (my emphasis and some reparagraphing throughout):
The A.U. call to the Security Council also laid out the background for their concerns: “Sovereignty has been a tool of emancipation of the peoples of Africa who are beginning to chart transformational paths for most of the African countries after centuries of predation by the slave trade, colonialism and neocolonialism. Careless assaults on the sovereignty of African countries are, therefore, tantamount to inflicting fresh wounds on the destiny of the African peoples.”
The African appeal can be found in the Indian journal Frontline, but was mostly unheard in the West. That comes as no surprise: Africans are “unpeople,” to adapt George Orwell’s term for those unfit to enter history.
You can see where this is headed.
On March 12, the Arab League gained the status of people by supporting U.N. Resolution 1973. But approval soon faded when the League withheld support for the subsequent Western bombardment of Libya. And [then] on April 10, the Arab League reverted to unpeople by calling on the U.N. also to impose a no-fly zone over Gaza and to lift the Israeli siege, virtually ignored.
That too makes good sense. Palestinians are prototypical unpeople, as we see regularly.
Who are the Unpeople? Unpeople are those you can abuse and kill, decimate and dislocate, without conscience or consequence, because they aren’t fully human — or human at all — in the minds of their abusers.
American Indians were Unpeople, squatting on land just waiting to be “settled” as whites spread across the “empty” American West. Arabs were Unpeople who “crawled like flies” through Palestine (per Agatha Christie), until white Europeans, the only true humans, infiltrated, moved them out, and took over.
Oddly, those same Europeans — ethnic Jews — were Unpeople in the lands they were fleeing. Suffering doesn’t always lead to wisdom.
It goes without saying, or should, that the drone-dead in Pakistan are Unpeople. (Feel a tad guilty? Me too.)
Here at home, Unpeople are all around us — the poor, the brown, the black, the homeless, the hopeless, the drugged-out, the cast-out — the wrecks and the unruly. The old. The “losers” in that hyper-Christian “take back America” formulation. The Occupyers and the foreclosed.
All Unpeople are the modern n-word, broadened to include the Unincluded everywhere you find them.
Are you the Unpeople? If you find yourself scooped up by the National Security state, you will be; even that white skin, if you have it, will not set you free.